Potatoes could make a greater contribution to global food security, according to the director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN).
Qu Dongyu’s keynote speech to 11th World Potato Congress (WPC) in Dublin yesterday (Monday, May 30) outlined that total production of the crop could double in the next decade.
Potatoes are the world’s third most important food crop and are regularly consumed by billions of people, the FAO director-general, who is an expert in the crop, noted.
Earlier in his career, Qu helped organise the 2015 WPC in China and served as a trustee of the International Potato Centre.
The conference heard that potatoes generate fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to other major crops while providing an income for small-scale producers.
In 2020, the vegetable, which originated in South America, was cultivated on more than 20 million hectares in 150 countries for a total global output of 359 million tonnes.
Asia and Africa are the regions with the fastest growth of potato production, while output is declining in Europe and North America, the conference heard.
By focusing on improving yields and making full use of historic potato cultivation areas, worldwide production can be raised to 500 million tonnes in 2025 and 750 million tonnes in 2030, the FAO director-general said.
“Potato will become one of the advantage crops in the global food-security system when the yield of other cereal crops is close to the limit,” Qu said.
He explained that the relatively low natural resource requirements of potatoes makes them an important food crop for people to survive during famine and disaster relief.
The director-general called on multiple partners to help “greatly improve” potato agri-food systems on national, regional and global levels.
This included increasing support for genetic improvements and shorter breeding cycles for potato varieties and the potential value of virus-free potato seed systems.